Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that a local pharmacy could help with.
By visiting your pharmacy instead of your GP, you could save yourself time and trouble – no need to book an appointment, just walk in. This also means your GP can prioritise more critical cases.
Pharmacists can help recognise and treat many common illnesses. They can give advice and where appropriate, recommend over-the-counter medicines that could help clear up the problem.
If they think you need to see a GP for your illness, they will advise you to do so.
In some parts of the country, there are NHS minor ailment schemes. These allow pharmacies to provide you with medicines for free on the NHS, as well as giving you advice and support about how to care for minor conditions yourself.
The medicines covered by the scheme are different depending on where in England you live, so you will need to talk to your local pharmacy about what they offer.
Anyone who doesn't normally have to pay for prescriptions from their GP – for example because they're under 16, over 60 or on benefits – is eligible for the scheme and will not need to pay for the medicine that the pharmacist suggests.
Find out if you're entitled to free NHS prescriptions.
However, if you do normally pay for your prescriptions, then you will still need to pay a prescription charge for any medicines your pharmacy recommends.
Not all pharmacies in England are part of the minor ailments scheme so you will first have to check if your local pharmacy is part of the scheme.
You can do this by:
To get your medicines free, you might need to bring proof that you don't normally have to pay prescription charges. Talk to your pharmacist about what you should bring.
Visiting your pharmacy about common health problems frees up time for GPs and A&E departments, which are already stretched, especially during the winter months.